Monday, April 14, 2014

Remembering Dr. Robert Harder

Robert Harder, Courtesy of Cjonline
As the news has reported, Dr. Bob Harder – pastor, legislator, cabinet secretary, advocate – passed away over the weekend, released from the deepening effects of a cancer that had taken him down. This article from the Topeka Capitol Journal summarizes his career, and the words of some who knew him well are clear reminders of the kind of leadership he represented in Topeka.

I worked for Dr. Harder, when he was Secretary, and worked with him as a legislative staff person who assisted him as he used his Secretary’s pulpit to facilitate legislative support for the programs sponsored by SRS. Tough, smart, hardnosed, tenacious … all these things described him well, but lost in those descriptors would be that his work, for decades, was to build and protect a network of government and community programs that were dedicated to the needs of persons who for a variety of disadvantages were seeking to get by and improve their lives in an otherwise hard and unforgiving world.

It is impossible to count the hundreds of thousands of persons he served, as well as the thousands of professionals he helped by leading, encouraging, guiding, admonishing,  and mentoring.  Dr. Harder will be missed, but his incredibly long tenure of leadership made a permanent mark on all of us, whether we know it or not;   therefore, his mission and his work will go forward.  

Tom Laing, Executive Director


  1. Oh for the days of decent people in public office. People you could trust and not always be on edge wondering what was coming down the pike. Thank you Tom Laing for your words about Dr. Harder.
    A sad and disillusioned I/DD parent

  2. Thank you Tom for this well stated article. I agree with Tom's description of Dr. Harder. I would add one more descriptor and that is humanitarian. Dr. Harder always considered the impact on the 'little guy' or the one that is 'disadvantaged'. While he made tough decisions he was inclusive so he could consider all views of the impact of those decisions. I learned a lot from Dr. Harder and feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have known him. He represented a life well lived.